Trading Spaces: West Jordan Swaps Property With Salt Lake County
Nov 14, 2014 01:37PM
● By Sherry Sorensen
When renovations are complete, the old West Jordan Library will become the permanent home of the West Jordan Arts Council. The building is being acquired through a land trade with Salt Lake County.
The West Jordan Arts Council needs a permanent home.
The Salt Lake County Health Department needs land for a new health clinic in West Jordan.
With those goals in mind, West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams devised a plan to make both dreams possible. In October, the two men signed an interlocal agreement to exchange properties for the mutual benefit of both entities.
“I met with Mayor McAdams from the county and told him some members of the arts council had expressed interest in using the old West Jordan Library as a home,” Rolfe said.
McAdams was intrigued and supportive of the idea.
“We came to the conclusion that we could trade land on our municipal campus of like value for the property on 7800 South that the county library system had,” Rolfe said. “It’s been about 11 months in the making, but we finally have a deal.”
When the transaction is complete, West Jordan will own the old library building across from Veterans Memorial Park (1985 West 7800 South). The county will acquire 2.06 acres of property on 1825 West, directly west of Fire Station 52. The land is currently being used as a parking lot by the city.
Part of the agreement allows for joint use of parking areas by both the city and the county. City representatives said they don’t expect the loss of the lot to have a significant impact because they generally have ample parking for employees and patrons.
Finding a Home for the Arts
Since 1995, the West Jordan Arts Council has been looking for a place to call its own.
In 2010, to their disbelief, the city condemned the Sugar Factory Playhouse. The structure, one of three buildings that were once part of a sugar beet processing facility from the early 1900s, housed arts council productions from 2004 until March 2010.
Three separate inspections determined that all of the buildings posed a significant public safety risk.
Not everyone agreed.
“We believe they didn’t understand how viable the sugar factory was. The building was in better shape than they felt,” said Dave Newton, former West Jordan mayor and advocate for the arts. “We worked hard to put the playhouse theater together with very little money and hundreds of hours of free labor. We feel the city lost an historical treasure.”
Since losing the theater, the arts council has had to make do with rented and borrowed space for its productions, sometimes in neighboring cities.
When the county vacated the old West Jordan Library to move into the newly completed Viridian Center in 2012, the group began investigating the possibility of renting or acquiring the empty building.
“This is probably the closest we’ve been in a long time,” Newton said. “We’ve been looking at how we might be able to convert the library and make it an arts facility that will benefit the whole city.”
However, he said he won’t breathe easy until everything is “signed, sealed and delivered.”
The county and city are set to close on the properties in early November.
“Once the contract is done and the due diligence period is over, we’re planning to remodel that building into an arts complex that will house all of the arts – the performing arts, the band, the chorale and even art exhibits. I would think we would want all of the arts in one location now that we have one location,” Rolfe said.
The building will likely be used for public purposes as well, including dance recitals, public meetings and other uses.
“Everything is on the table to utilize it to its highest potential, but nothing’s decided for certain at this point,” Rolfe said.
The funds to remodel the building could potentially come, in part, from impact fees that were collected over the years for an arts complex, Rolfe said.
The fees were initially set aside to refurbish the sugar factory. When the buildings there were torn down, the city stopped setting aside impact fees for this purpose.
Salt Lake County also offers up to $250,000 in matching grant funds for the arts. West Jordan has never utilized this program and hopes to qualify for the money to use toward the arts facility, Rolfe said.
After the initial costs to remodel the building, the mayor believes the city will actually save money year to year because they’ll no longer be paying storage fees for arts council equipment.
Newton and Rolfe both said the arts play a vital role in building a strong community.
“Whatever we can do to keep people actively engaged is good. We have sports facilities where people who are sports-minded can be involved. We think it’s just as important that those who don’t have those sports skills have an outlet they can use, and the arts is one of those,” Newton said.
Bringing Health Services Closer to Home
While West Jordan is gaining a building ready to become an arts complex, Salt Lake County now moves one step closer to offering a broader array of vital services to residents in the southwest end of the valley.
“At one point, we were looking at building a great big clinic, but community members were asking for more services spread throughout the county,” Planning Director Christina Oliver said. “We listened, we delivered and we went smaller.”
Now, county officials hope to break ground on a new WIC and Immunization clinic in West Jordan next summer. Vital Records will likely be available at the new location as well.
West Jordan is already home to a Salt Lake County WIC Clinic, but Health Department Director Gary Edwards said the new facility will be three times the size of the current building and will allow the county to better serve residents in the area.
“We’ve tried providing vaccinations in our West Jordan clinic, but we haven’t had the space. With this new building, we can do that,” he said. “Currently, we provide about 87,000 childhood vaccinations around the county each year. This will make it easier.”
Like the arts council’s future home, Edwards said the reality of the clinic has “been a long time coming.”
“We’ve been looking for locations and the financing for this project for about seven years,” he said. “The whole thing is exciting for us. For a long time, because of population growth, we’ve felt the need to have a much larger presence in the southwest part of the county.”
The building will be financed through a sales tax revenue bond. The county is jumping into the design phase of the project immediately and hopes to occupy the new facility in the fall of 2016.
Oliver said in her time with the county, the negotiations to make this deal happen were some of the most productive that she’s witnessed.
“I have yet to see collaboration in my short tenure like this. It was amazing. There was no personal bias. Everyone was acting in good faith and truly had the women and children of the community at the forefront,” she said.